HEALTH CHECK

By Sherri Stigler

Discussion abounds in comm. centers around the country about health and wellness these days. We are inundated with information about reducing stress, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising more. But could we be forgetting to “take a pulse” on the condition of our relationship between the dispatchers and their leadership team? How healthy are we … really?

Who’s the boss?

Since the beginning of time, there have been bosses and there have been worker bees. There have been leaders and followers, kings and servants, chiefs and officers, coaches and players. Some people have been “poor” leaders. You may know the type. They have a dictator-type style, and they’re really good at playing favorites and keeping secrets. They shy away from showing gratitude and grace, know little about trust, and even less about empowerment.

On the flip side, some people have been great leaders; visionaries and believers who trust their underlings to do the work they do best. The good managers are often trained in the art of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) (see Editor’s Note) and servant leadership. Those that do are a catalyst for the positive flow of internal relationships between staff and management in your comm. center.

Finding and fixing the “bugs”

Everyone understands the importance of preventative medicine and it’s no different with your staff and management relationships. Take inventory. Figure out which “medicines” your team requires to either fix or prevent unhealthy bugs from invading their workspace. Bugs are crazy stealthy, so you have to be meticulous in your search.  

In a past job, I worked in a middle school health room where, as part of my duties, I was the poor sap tasked with pawing through countless heads of adolescent hair in search of (gulp …) lice. Gross? You betcha. Necessary? You betcha. Why? Because you gotta catch them before they propagate! It’s the same concept with bugs between staff and management. If you fail to catch them early, you’ll eventually be dealing with a problem of epidemic proportions! How can you get your staff/management relationship under a microscope to take a peek? Here are some ideas:

Meet regularlyIn our comm. center, we have a group of representative dispatchers from each of the three shifts who gather once every month with the management team to get the “real scoop” on departmental issues rather than relying on gossip or hearsay. This has been very effective and helps boost awareness levels on both sides. The one- to two-hour meeting allows for great exchange, and the minimal overtime needed is well worth it.

Learn and invest repeatedlyLifelong education is a crucial investment, especially when it involves learning best practices that can be applied at the center. Staff and management should encourage growth in and for each other. Invest in the team concept and hold yourself accountable for your actions and how you do your job. Ask, “If not me, then who?”

Communicate respectfullyNobody responds well to negative communication. Don’t complain without bringing a solution. Slow down and “pump the brakes” when you feel your temperature rising. Give people the opportunity to explain, because none of us have all the answers. Watch the “pitchy” emails … it’s tough to diagnose their true intent.

Take these preventative measures for your whole team and you will find that there is a continual infusion of support and respect flowing into the veins of both management and staff. A healthy team will always foster a healthy work environment!

Editor’s Note: For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concepts of Appreciative Inquiry, Sherri recommends David Nelson’s blog, The Human Agenda (http://humanagenda.typepad.com/). 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sherri Stigler is the Training and Operations Manager for Waukesha County Communications, Wisconsin, USA, a combined dispatch center in southeastern Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee, a land where the beer runs freely and locals proudly stack cheese on just about everything and call it great.

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